The 2022 MLS Season is officially one-third of the way complete, and the Philadelphia Union is currently in the midst of a spring slump. While Philly is still a top team in MLS, their eight-week hold on first place in the eastern conference has slipped away. This is thanks to going winless in their last five matches. Can Philadelphia turn it around ahead of an international break to start their summer stretch?
Union’s Spring “Slump”
The Union has only lost once this year, and it’s come during this slump. However, they have also tied their last four league matches. Each of these matches has been against a top-tier opponent, but it’s no excuse for a Philly team that has dropped 11 of their last 15 possible points.
To some, this slump should be put in quotation marks as the team is one of two teams in MLS to only have lost once. Still, the way in which the team has failed to gain important points in the toughest stretch of the season is bringing up major concerns. It is why some will confidently say this team is slumping, and why many in the national media are asking just how good is this team in Philadelphia.
Whether you think this is a slump or not, there are issues this team needs to look into and fixed. That is if the team wants to get back to the top of the east and be seen as a true contender in MLS.
0-1-4 in the last Month
In the last month, the Union has a 2-1 loss to Toronto, and four draws against Montreal, Nashville, LAFC, and New York see the team sitting on 20 points from 11 matches. Curtin is calling this team a solid one pointing to their one loss in 2022; however, this team could have been elite if it was able to kill off matches.
This stretch of matches was said to be the hardest the team will face all season. Pundits were saying it before the season, and it’s proving to be true now that we are witnessing it. The congested schedule of games and the quality opponents have made this 0-1-4 stretch happen.
The Union is heading to the end of that congested schedule with three matches in the next 11 days. Should they want to do better than they have in the past month, they’ll need to focus on fixing the major problem they’ve had all month.
Giving Up One Goal Leads
The Union has been great at getting the first goal of matches this year. They’ve done it in their last nine league matches, the problem is oftentimes putting the game away. In their last five matches, they’ve allowed their opposition to get the tying or winning goal. This has been an issue with the team’s attack, and the team’s style coming back to bite them.
The attack has been able to find the first goal during this slump. Julian Carranza has three go-ahead goals, Daniel Gazdag has two, and Mikael Uhre one in this stretch. The problem is that the Union fail to hold the lead, despite their attack getting in good positions to score. Their breakneck pressing style creates good turnovers and chances to score a second, but the team is failing to convert.
The chances have mainly fallen to backup strikers, Cory Burke and Sergio Santos, who are proving to not be the players the Union needs to be a top team in MLS. The issues then shift to the team’s defensive structure which opens up for opponents when Philly constantly presses. This was more than evident this past weekend against New York when their hottest attacking player was allowed to stroll through the middle of the Union’s final third and get off a shot to tie the match.
Jim Curtin has his work cut out for him as the team looks to turn it around to end this spring slump. With three more matches, and some lineup concerns, how will the Union adjust to get back to their winning ways?
Can Curtin Turn it Around before International Break?
The Union has had to deal with DP striker Mikael Uhre being out in the last three matches as he has re-aggravated a quad injury. This has meant Philly has had to rely on Cory Burke and Sergio Santos as their strikers alongside Julian Carranza. Burke hasn’t scored since week three, and Santos hasn’t scored at all this season. With the problems at striker could we see the Union to a different formation as we saw last season?
Carranza is the real deal up top, and Gazdag is looking like an MVP candidate, could Philly pair a homegrown (Aaronson or Sullivan) with those two in a 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation? It might be worth a shot in these final games in May. Here’s a look at the matches where Philly will try to turn it around.
- vs Miami – May 18
- @ Portland – May 22
- @ New England – May 28
Union coach Jim Curtin will have to make some tough choices starting tonight in their match against Miami. Jose “El Brujo” Martinez is suspended for the game, and Julian Carranza is unavailable as he’s on loan from Miami. This might be the perfect time to deploy a different formation or different players to see if it provides a needed spark.
I have a feeling Curtin will go back to the 4-3-2-1 for the Miami match, and the players he’ll choose will be:
Blake; Wagner, Findlay, Glesnes, Harriel; Flach, Elliot, Bedoya; Aaronson, Gazdag; Santos.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Union can get out of this slump tonight. On paper the match against Miami is the most winnable game, can they get the job done and keep things rolling with two more tough road matchups?
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire